When people find out that I (and my kids) only regularly leave my house about once a week, they are either shocked, disgusted, or in awe. Some can’t believe anyone can survive staying at home all day, every day of the week. Others think that it is not natural, it is actually bad, and I must have something wrong with me. And some people are slightly jealous and wish that they could stay home more instead of leaving their house every day, even expressing admiration for our “simple life”.
Guess what? I didn’t choose this life. But, God has a funny way of allowing and helping us grow into what we need to be in order to deal with, and even accept, the life we are given. And, now I wouldn’t choose any life other than being mama to these specific kids. But, let me tell you something.
I didn’t choose for my oldest son to be deathly allergic to dairy. This made going anywhere extremely stressful when he was little. A baby/toddler tries to touch and eat everything! Every time I left the house with my only child (at the time) and went to visit my sisters or got together with a group of ladies, it was interrupted with my son wheezing, vomiting, breaking out in hives, needing medication, and suffering for hours afterwards because the other kids had traces of dairy on them, the toys were contaminated, and it seemed like there was dairy everywhere we went!
It wasn’t anyone else’s fault, it wasn’t up to others to adjust to our life… it was up to me to adjust and deal with our special needs! So, I had to be extremely careful with where we went and then I had to hover over my son the entire time. Inviting others to our home wasn’t much easier. Honestly, it was not very enjoyable. I hated that I had to be the mom constantly reminding the other little kids to wash their hands, to keep their food at the table, to not touch my son’s sipper cup, etc. Our son was constantly sick with double ear infection and respiratory issues. We didn’t know until he was much older that he is actually missing part of his immune system! We started limiting how often we were with people. We lost some of our fun & freedom to do as we pleased.
I didn’t choose to have my oldest daughter born with a serious medical condition that causes severe developmental delays and chronic vomiting, which meant that I had to stop driving alone with my little children about several years ago. I couldn’t leave the house without my husband because someone had with sit by our daughter and help her vomit while we were driving, otherwise, she would choke. Our other children were too little at the time.
She has a very fragile immune system and when we were exposed to a common cold virus, she would become severely ill for weeks. Her vomiting, sleepless nights, and colic-like screaming would get worse and she was hospitalized many times. To protect her, we stopped going to large family gatherings with extended family. We stopped going to close family gatherings if any of them had an inkling of a sickness. (and, in the process, we were protecting our oldest son’s fragile immune system, too) We lost some of our fun & freedom to do as we pleased.
You see, I didn’t start out as a person who enjoyed staying at home all day, every day. Before I had kids, I enjoyed going shopping for fun, I loved driving to my sisters or parents’ house to visit, I loved hanging out with friends. Before medical/special needs became part of our life, we enjoyed hanging out at friends’ and families houses as a family on the weekends and eating dinner with large groups of friends after church. Driving someplace didn’t warrant a second thought, it was just a matter of getting there.
Now, the very process of driving someplace takes thought and planning. Our oldest daughter will vomit during our drive and she will require assistance. She weighs over 50-pounds and flops like a sack of potatoes, so getting her up into our full-size van and into her carseat is very difficult even for my very strong husband. The amount of medical supplies and diapers for the children are more than a little bit of stuff to pack. And, even if I could manage leaving the house alone with my 7 children, where would we go and what would we do once we got there?
Throw in my own autoimmune disease which limits my physical abilities… and well, you get a family that has a lot of stuff to deal with even on the best of days.
So, for various reasons, I have had to learn to make the most of being a literal stay-at-home-mom. I had to adjust to never leaving my house except with my husband or alone (if I can get a babysitter). I have had to embrace it or hate it. By God’s grace, I learned to embrace it.
Yes, I am an introvert, but I actually like people. I actually wish we could go on homeschool field trips with my sisters, meet others at the park for lunch and playdates, hang out at the library, bring my kids grocery shopping and just dare strangers to comment on how many kids I have (others are always talking about it, but since I never bring all 7 of my kids anywhere, I never get to experience said comments. I feel like I’m missing out. I’m kidding… kind of).
I miss relaxing on a Sunday afternoon with other adults and letting my kids run & play without worrying about someone coughing (do they have a cold?), dairy (did you wash your hands? uh oh, don’t drop your food on the floor or smear your ice cream on the chair.), and vomit (sorry everyone, I know the sound of retching is less than pleasant!). Seriously.
When we are at home, we are in a safe zone. We are a family with medical/special needs. We know how to handle it. We have everything we need right on hand. We accept each other. We are not interfering with anyone else’s life. But, when we go to someone else’s house, we suddenly become that family, I become that woman, and my kids become those kids. And we are ruining things for everyone else!
|Our special needs family – 2014
But, I didn’t tell you all of that you make you pity me! I just want you to understand why it is the way it is.
Believe me, I can have the biggest pity party out there! Just last night, while helping my daughter vomit at 4am for the millionth time in her 8 years of life, I thought: why can’t I just have a normal life?
And, today I can add to that self-pity with more questions. Why can’t all 8 of my kids be alive & healthy? Why can’t we come & go as we please, eat what we please? Why does my life revolve around food allergies, vomit, and medicines? And while we’re at it: why isn’t my mom alive & healthy so that we could do typical mom & daughter & grandkids stuff?
I know one of the answers to those questions is this: life isn’t about me, my kids, our comforts, or even our health. Life is about glorifying GOD. Life is about serving JESUS because of what HE has done for us through His life, death, resurrection, and the work He has done in me through the Holy Spirit! And, until something changes, God has called me to love on and care for my seven living children with various medical/special needs, keep my home a safe haven for them, and support my husband in his role as leader, provider, and seeker of God’s will for our family.
If I ponder on the whys, what-ifs, and what-nots; where will that get me? I’ve been down that path of discontentment before and I don’t want to go back. I do not believe that I was given “lemons to make lemonade with”. But, I’ve learned to take the oranges I’ve been given and make orange juice with it… yummy, pulp-free orange juice, too! What I mean is that I am not saying I have been given something bad (lemons) and that I have had to make something good (lemonade) from it… rather, I have been given something different that I expected (oranges) and I had to realize that there is something really sweet about it (OJ). It is a matter of perspective!
|A failed photo shoot – my oldest daughter and I in 2007
We are a very close family, we love being together, my husband spends his time off of work with his kids, my husband & I put each other first and make an effort to keep our marriage strong, we recognize each moment with our children as a blessing, and we have grown so much closer to God. We didn’t start out this way, at all. We are in a season in our life that requires staying close to home, creating our own entertainment, and counting our blessings every day to stay hopeful. Our joyful life now, is a result of the trials we’ve faced. We found freedom & gifts we never knew existed.
For who is to say which is better? The orange or the lemon?
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed
about with so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us lay aside every weight,
and the sin which doth so easily beset us,
and let us run with patience
the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus
the author and finisher of our faith;
who for the joy that was set before him
endured the cross, despising the shame,
and is set down at the
right hand of the throne of God.
For consider him that endured
such contradiction of sinners against himself,
lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
Hebrews 12:1-3 KJV